Fethard-on-Sea boycott

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The Fethard-on-Sea boycott was a controversy involving Sean and Sheila Cloney (née Kelly), a married couple from the village of Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford, Ireland. It led to a sectarian boycott led by the local Catholic priest of some members of the local Protestant community in 1957.

The Cloney family[edit]

Sean Cloney, a Catholic, came from Dungulf, a short distance to the north of Fethard-on-Sea while Sheila, a Church of Ireland Protestant, came from Johns Hill in the village itself.[1] They married at an Augustinian church in Hammersmith, London in 1949.[2]

They had three daughters: Mary, Eileen and Hazel, who was born after the controversy.[2][3]

At the time, non-Catholic spouses of Roman Catholics who wished to be married in the Catholic Church had to agree to bring their children up as Roman Catholics as a result of Ne Temere.

The boycott[edit]

Parish priest Fr. Stafford told Sheila Cloney she had to raise her children as Catholics.[4] Sheila refused, leading to her leaving the town with her daughters. The parish priest organised a boycott of the local Protestant population which was endorsed by Bishop Michael Brown.[4] Sheila Cloney went first to Northern Ireland, then Orkney.[4] Eventually Sean traced her to Orkney, they were reconciled and their daughters were taught at home.[4]

Éamon de Valera condemned the boycott on 4 July 1957 and called for Mrs Cloney to respect her promise and return with her children to her husband.[5]

Time magazine coined the term "fethardism" to mean a boycott along religious lines in an article on the events. [6]

A film, A Love Divided, was based on the boycott, though some dramatic licence was taken with some events.[3]

Father Sean Fortune[edit]

Sean Cloney was one of the people from the area who complained about the behaviour of Father Sean Fortune including abuse and stealing money.[7] Sean had compiled a dossier on the priest including a list of seventy young people who had been in contact with the priest.[3] Fortune left Fethard in 1987, eventually committing suicide while on trial in 1999 for a series of underage sexual predator allegations.[1][7]


Their daughter Mary died in 1998 and Sean Cloney died in October 1999.[7][8] Sheila died in June 2009.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Fethard mourns passing of Sheila Cloney aged 83, New Ross Standard, 1 July 2009
  2. ^ a b Woman at centre of infamous Fethard-on-Sea boycott dies, Michael Parsons, The Irish Times, 30 June 2009
  3. ^ a b c Village torn apart by a mother's love, The Sunday Herald, 26 March 2000
  4. ^ a b c d If Paisley finally says ‘yes’, we in the South are in no position to gloat[permanent dead link], Irish Examiner, 24 March, 2007
  5. ^ Fethard-on-Sea boycott, Remarks by Professor Brian Farrell
  6. ^ "Fethardism". Time. 19 August 1957. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Comiskey's turbulent priest[permanent dead link], Alison O'Connor, The Sunday Business Post
  8. ^ Father at the centre of Fethard furore, The Irish Times, 10 October 1999, retrieved 4 July 2009